IDENTIFICATION WITH GOD AND OUR FELLOWMEN AS THE BASIS FOR SERVICE IN MINISTRY
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ HEB 2:14-18; MK 1:29-39 ]
Those of us who have found Christ or have a Christ-experience are usually on cloud nine. We are so much in love with Christ and become very enthusiastic in our faith, whether in spiritual life or in ministry. With so much fire in us, we give ourselves generously, not to only one or two ministries but often involving ourselves in many ministries, since we seem to be in demand by many people. Yet, not infrequently, we find ourselves losing steam within a short while. Many of us suffer from burn-out. Others become disillusioned and scandalized when they realize that they are working with imperfect priests and fellow lay Catholics. Others become too tired because of over commitment, leading to an unbalanced lifestyle that affects not only their prayer life but also their relationships at home and at work. We become jaded, skeptical, doing the minimum and in a perfunctory manner too. What pitfalls must we avoid in order not to lose our commitment and zeal for the ministry?
Firstly, we must always stay in touch with our fellowmen, especially the people we serve. We must know them well enough so that we can feel for and with them. Indeed, today’s first reading makes it clear that “it was not the angels that he (Jesus) took to himself; he took to himself descent from Abraham.” The reason is clear. If Jesus became man, it was so that He could share equally our blood and flesh and understand what it means to be human. As man, Jesus too suffered the same trials and faced the same challenges we go through each day. He too had to live in fear under the threat of death. He too was tempted each day. Hence, Jesus understands too well what it means to be human. Hebrews tells us “it was essential that he should in this way become completely like his brothers so that he could be a compassionate and trustworthy high priest of God’s religion, able to atone for human sins. That is, because he has himself been through temptation he is able to help others who are tempted.”
Being in touch with our fellowmen arouses compassion in our hearts. Understandably, the gospel relates the hectic activity in the life of Jesus. He was busy reaching out to those who needed help. He healed the sick and “cured many who were suffering from diseases of one kind or another.” Besides healing the afflicted, “he also cast out many devils.” Hence, the twofold purpose of ministry, namely, healing and liberation. He understood the basic needs of the people. Before He could even proclaim about God and teach them about His love, He knew it was necessary to first demonstrate the power and love of God by reaching out to them.
Indeed, the people initially came to Jesus not because they recognized Him as the Son of God but simply because they wanted to be healed of their infirmities and be rid of their bondage to sin, fear and the Evil One. Thus, it should not be surprising that “the whole town came crowding round the door” seeking for Jesus’ help. This should be an important reminder to those of us in ministry. We must be sensitive to the needs of our people and respond to their immediate needs before even speaking to them about God. We cannot proclaim God’s love and mercy in the abstract. His love and mercy must be demonstrated concretely in their lives. Let us proclaim in actions before we proclaim in words.
However, we must also be watchful. In our desire to fulfill the needs of our people, we can lose focus. Compassion can lead to possession by those whom we minister to. As we reach out to those who need our help, we can expect that many would be grateful to us and would want to own us for themselves. If we are not careful, we can allow ourselves to be possessed by those who love us and thereby hinder our ministry to others who are still waiting for the Good News to be proclaimed to them. This was what happened to Jesus. The people, we are told, were looking for Jesus.
Of course, the reverse could also be possible. When we become so popular, we can be tempted to build our own kingdom. We must be conscious that we are not leading people to ourselves but to Jesus. Indeed, Jesus was tempted by His popularity since the disciples told Him, “Everybody is looking for you.” But Jesus would not even think about staying in His comfort zone. All He wanted to do was to proclaim the Good News to all and for the sake of the people of God. We must learn to be like Jesus, to do our job and then disappear from the scene. To seek recognition and appreciation can lead us to egotism and self-worship.
So in order to stay focused, we must learn from Jesus. If Jesus had a heart for man, it was because His heart was first and foremost with the Father. Jesus was not only identified with us, more importantly, He identified Himself with the Father. The strength and secret of Jesus’ ministry lay in His communion with the Father. St Mark tells us “in the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, he went off to a lonely place and prayed there.” Hence instead of simply being complacent and creating a niche for Himself in the village, Jesus told Simon and His companions “‘Let us go elsewhere, to the neighbouring country towns, so that I can preach there too, because that is why I came.’ And he went all through Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out devils.”
Yes, Jesus remained focused in His ministry. He did not suffer from any burn-out or fall into complacency, or conversely become ambitious and self-seeking. His only concern was His Father’s desire to reach out to all. Jesus the Good Shepherd after the heart of His Father could feel with so many people who were waiting for the Good News. Let us too, in our ministry, keep our focus by remaining connected with the sufferings of our people and at the same time, grow in compassion and wisdom through our union with God in prayer.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
Note: You may share this reflection with someone. However, please note that reflections are not archived online, nor will they be available via email request.